Thinking about sustainability and becoming a low carbon community leads us to think about food. Watford Meeting has been challenged by some of our younger members to ask what we can do to encourage our community (both Quakers and the wider community) to move towards eating in a more sustainable way. Vast amounts of food are wasted daily by supermarkets and other outlets because it is past it ‘sell by’ date although still perfectly good to eat. Vast amounts of fuel are used transporting food from place to place which could be saved if we ate food produced nearer to home. Vast amounts of food that is perfectly good for human consumption is wasted by feeding it to animals to turn into meat for us. Vast amounts of artificial fertilisers and pesticides are used unnecessarily that would not be required in a well balanced mixed organic farming system.
Local research has shown that much of the short-dated food in Watford is being collected and distributed to those who might otherwise be hungry, so current efforts are looking at ways we might improve access to locally grown and produced food, reducing food miles and chemical usage. Our ‘food group’ is working on plans for local distribution of food boxes from a farmer in Hertfordshire.
Last year our meeting house garden was home to some chickens who provided entertainment and eggs, until they became a meal for one of the local foxes. I understand our warden plans to try again this spring.
Many Quakers have already felt moved to become vegetarian or vegan to reduce their impact on the environment, reduce animal suffering and help make food supplies go round. While it is sometimes argued that this is a middle class lifestyle choice, it is not actually a more expensive option, though it does require some thinking through and learning to achieve a balanced diet.
Another aspect of food is its role in building community. Shared meals are a wonderful opportunity to enjoy one another’s company and get to know one another better. Currently, in Watford Quaker Meeting, we have opportunities to meet for breakfast on those Sundays that we have all age worship (about to increase from four times a year to eight or nine) and for lunch on the third Sunday of most months. Breakfast is usually cereal & croissants to keep things simple to prepare. Lunch is generally on a bring and share basis (bringing being encouraged but not insisted upon). Sometimes all age worship activities include the preparation of food to be eaten for lunch – soup, bread and fruit crumble become a feast. And then there is always Area meeting tea – a highlight of the Quaker month.
Another aspect of food is realising that there are those in our community who at times can not afford food. Watford, like many other places, now has a food bank, which is fortunately finding larger premises to enable it to meet growing demand. It still need financial and volunteer support in order to continue to operate.
So next time you eat, stop for a moment to give thanks for having something to eat, for all the work that has gone in to providing it for you, for those you are sharing it with, and what you can do to help ensure that the food we have available is more fairly shared so that everyone has enough.